Cheese is a food obtained by coagulation milk, followed by draining in a mold (in Latin crafts, hence the name cheese). A distinction is made between fresh (or white) cheeses, mature cheeses (the most numerous and varied) and processed cheeses (more recent).
- History: The first cheeses appeared at the same time as aging. Indeed, the Milk that we did not drink immediately and that did not keep was used otherwise: we left it curdle, we pressed it, we sprinkled it with salt and it was dried in the sun on stones.
In ancient Greece, many pastries were made with fresh goat or sheep cheese; when dried, it was also a long-life food for soldiers and sailors. The Romans mastered the making of cheeses well, which they appreciated more or less dry and sometimes smoked, as specified in an agronomy treatise written by Columelle, at the time when the preparation of pressed cheeses was discovered, thanks to the use of the press (XNUMXrd century AD). They particularly appreciated a "cheese stew" made from cheese, fish salty brain, poultry liver, ofHard egg and D'aromates.
Over the centuries, artisanal techniques introduced an extreme diversification in cheeses, giving rise to the major regional dominant (soft cheeses from the West and the North, goat cheeses from Touraine and Poitou, blue from the Center, cooked pasta from the Alps. , etc.). Monastic orders, in particular, played an important role in perfecting manufacturing processes (munster, Saint-Paulin, Trappist cheeses, etc.).
A complete food, cheese was consumed by the most humble (it has always been the basis of the meal of the peasants). It acquired its letters of nobility at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, when Charles of Orleans offered it to the ladies of his court. Products from Holland and Switzerland were also sold on the French markets.
In the XNUMXth century, cheese was widely used in cooking, especially in Sauces and pastry. During the French Revolution, the supply difficulties caused him to lose part of his popularity, but he regained it from the Empire, a time when we especially appreciated the Maroilles du Hainaut, the Norman Neufchâtel, the Roquefort, Swiss Gruyere and Parmesan Italian, while the Brie was crowned "king of cheeses" during a dinner of the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815).
In the XNUMXth century, pasteurization and industrialization took hold of traditional dairies, and new products appeared. Today, the most modern techniques of conservation allow the cheeses to arrive at their place of destination having kept all their qualities.
Farmhouse cheeses, or small "cheese factories", handcrafted using traditional methods, are often tastier than dairy cheeses, produced industrially. Of these, those that are made with raw milk are better than those that are "pasteurized". For all cheeses, the buying season is important.
General information on French cheeses: At the start of the 350st century, France produced between 400 and XNUMX types of cheese in total.
This large number of varieties inspired General de Gaulle to say a word that has remained famous: "How do you want to govern a country where there are 246 varieties of cheese?" ". It also gave birth to a phrase designating France: the "land of 300 cheeses" (the number varies). It is also said that there is a different cheese for each day of the year (365 in number). Colonel Rémy also relates in his memoirs that one of his English friends, Kay Harrison, would have told him, during the Second World War and the German Occupation of France, that "a country like France, which knows how to manufacture more of two hundred kinds of cheese, cannot die ”(we also find this quotation attributed in different forms to Winston Churchill).
March 29 has been National Cheese Day since 2001, organized by theAssociation of local cheeses
Cheese making. The hundreds of varieties of cheese are differentiated first by the nature of the milk used, then by the manufacturing techniques. But the process steps remain the same.
- Maturation of milk (excluding cooked pasta). It is done naturally or under the action of lactic ferments. It is a phase of development of lactic ferments naturally present in raw milk or inoculated for pasteurized milk. They prepare the milk for coagulation (or curdling). Milk with the addition of rennet coagulates the casein (milk protein), which becomes flaky and then forms a gel: it is the curd (solid). The whey, or whey, can then be separated by natural or forced draining.
- Cutting and draining: partially drained curd becomes fresh cheese. However, it is possible to mix this curd into more or less coarse groats, to mix it, or even to heat it, in order to obtain, after molding, a wide range of products.
- Molding: This curd, possibly seeded with internal or external molds, is molded, then pressed sometimes to finish draining and, finally, salted when removing from the mold (on the surface with dry salt or by immersion in brine).
- Ripening: It is during ripening that the cheese curd ferments. This operation lasts more or less long, in a dry or humid environment (from 70 to 90% relative humidity), in cellars or dairies and allows the cheese to acquire its particular qualities of texture, color and taste.
Families: All the cheeses are grouped into large families.
- Fresh cheeses: Unripened, they are obtained by lactic coagulation, with a very reduced addition of rennet; drained slowly, are always rich in water, sometimes salted or beaten with crème fraîche.
- Soft cheeses with bloomy rind: The curd is obtained by mixed curdling (maturation of milk and addition of rennet); rarely mixed, drained spontaneously, it is molded and covered with external molds during ripening.
- Soft cheeses with washed rind: The curd is obtained by rennet or mixed curdling; the curd is lightly stirred and then drained for some, then molded. These cheeses are washed with salt, sometimes with the addition of coloring (roucou), during ripening.
- Blue-veined cheeses: The curd is cut after curdling, sometimes slightly stirred, then seeded with molds (which give the veins) before molding and maturing. During the latter, "blue" develops in the cavities of the curd or along the punctures made in the dough (veins).
- Uncooked pressed cheeses (or "pressed"). They are obtained by curdling with rennet, without maturation. The curd E cut, then drained by pressing, then stirred or crushed, finally salted, molded and pressed again and matured.
- Cooked pressed cheeses: The curd obtained with rennet E “cooked” at approximately 55 ° C and stirred for at least one hour, then drawn off and molded before pressing. The cheese is salted in brine and then matured with rubbing regular brine mixed with specific ferments.
- Goat cheese: These are soft cheeses with a bloomy rind, the curd is obtained after maturation of the slightly renneted milk. At the start of ripening, they are seeded with mold, others remain bare or receive charcoal and are then said to be "ashy".
- Other cheeses: Sheep cheeses (exclusively sheep cheeses) can be included in all these families, as well as mixed milk cheeses (goat-cow, ewe-cow). Spun cheese, which is eaten fresh, dry or smoked, undergo special treatment: after cutting, the curd is mixed with whey, heated, then kneaded until it has an elastic consistency. Finally, processed cheeses (see this word) are obtained by melting several cheeses.
Protection of cheese identity: Certain cheeses - currently more than forty in France - benefit from a controlled designation of origin (AOC) guaranteeing their origin, their method of manufacture, their qualities and, for some of them, manufacture with raw milk.
Since July 14, 1992, a European directive has created a system ofprotected designation of origin (PDO), a system similar to AOC on a European scale In France, only PDO cheeses can obtain PDO.
See here the List of French AOC cheeses.
Dietetics: The cheeses are energetic and rich in protein 100 g of County provide more protein than 100 c meat. Pressed cheeses contain more lipids than soft cheeses. Cheeses are also rich in calcium (there is more in cooked pressed cheeses than in soft cheeses. Finally, they are rich in vitamins A, B2 and B12.
The fat content is calculated on the dry extract (100 g of Camembert with 45% fat and 45 g of dry extract contain 20 g of fat in total). In most other countries, this rate is calculated on the total weight of the cheese.
A distinction is made, depending on the percentage of fat, between lean cheeses (less than 20%), low-fat cheeses (20 to 30%), full-fat cheeses (50 to 60%), double creams (at least 60%) and triple creams (at least 75%). No specific name distinguishes cheeses containing between 30 and 50% fat.
Cheese conservation: Cheeses will keep in the lower part of the refrigerator, well wrapped. They must be taken out an hour before serving them. Soft pastes, if they are not "made to heart “, It is better to wait a few days in a cool place. The blues should be slightly damp, and an old tradition has it that the Gruyere keep in an airtight box with a piece of sugar (which must be changed when it begins to melt).
When a cheese has been cut, its cutting surface must be protected from drying out, while allowing the cheese to breathe. It should be wrapped in transparent film or in aluminum foil, provided that small holes are drilled in it.
Cheese service: In the past, cheeses were readily used as a dessert. In the XNUMXth century, they were considered a male delicacy, which was served in the smoking room, with the alcohols. Today, they are rather the extension of the meal, and we present them after or with the salad and before the dessert.
They are served on a platter whose material is unlikely to give them a taste, possibly with butter, this habit being controversial, as is the question of whether or not to eat the cheese rind: on these two points, the experts are divided.
As far as we are concerned, we recommend not to eat it for multiple reasons.
Generally, at least three cheeses are offered: a cooked paste, a marbled paste and a soft cheese with a bloomy or washed rind; amateurs nevertheless appreciate a choice of five or six cheeses from different families, unless only one particularly well chosen and matured cheese is presented.
The cut obeys certain rules of good manners; the plate will carry one or more special knives, terminated by two points serving to prick the piece, because one does not touch the cheese with a fork.
Wine remains the best accompaniment to cheese, but according to certain associations which respectively enhance the two products.
As a rule, we mainly serve red wines and light with soft cheeses with a bloomy rind, goats and pressed cheeses, full-bodied wines with soft cheeses with washed rind and parsley.
But goats also adapt to a dry white wine and fruity, cooked pasta and melted pasta are marry well with a rosé or a white, the blue and Roquefort with an fluffy white or a natural sweet wine, and the County is delicious with a Jura yellow wine. The beer and cider go very well with certain cheeses.
Finally, to fully appreciate cheese, it is desirable to have an assortment of pains to taste and consistency different (the country, rye, or even crackers and crispbread).
Cheese and cooking : Many cheeses are used in foodas an ingredient basic or as condiment. We use them either raw (canapés, pasta, prepared salads, toasts), or, more often, cooked (pancakes, puff pastry, gratins, omelets, pizzas, Mornay sauces, and Marnay, puffs, soupes). There is a wide variety of spot typical cheese-based: aligoth, croque-monsieur, crust, flamiche, fondue, Gougère, goyere, gratin, imbrucciata, keshy yena, patranque, squeegee, truffle, Welsh Rarebit.
Le fromage blanc is more particularly used in pastry.
See : allumette, Tray, Crust, Cabbage, Crepe, Croissant, Croquette, Imp, Laminated, Fondue, gnocchi, Gougère, Malakoff, pancake, Quiche, Raclette, Ramekin, Breath, Tarte et tart, Tartiflette, terrine.
The seven different flavors of cheese
From the most tender to the full-bodied, there are as many bouquets flavors that evolve in a few days or a few weeks of "aging": the nutty taste that escaped you on the first day or the smoky aftertaste, or hay that now pleases your palate so pleasantly and knows how to seduce your sweet tooth ...
The seven flavors of cheese:
1. Fresh flavor: These are all white cheeses and fresh cheeses, with a smooth texture or grainy.
2. Neutral flavor: These are generally suitable for those who say they don't like cheese for its too strong taste. Processed cheeses are one of them, when they are neither flavored nor fragrant. Most “low-fat” cheeses can be classified among cheeses with a neutral flavor, as well as “branded” industrial products which are generally poorly ripened, soft cheeses from industrial dairies: Carré de l'Est, Coulommiers in particular. As well as uncooked pressed pasteurized milk pasta such as Saint-Paulin, tomes fresh or still young, the morbier...
3. Sweet flavor: Which doesn't mean tasteless. Their creaminess takes away any aggressiveness. They have a very light smell and a slightly pronounced taste of lightly ripened cheeses such as double and triple creams. And young cheeses: uncooked pressed cheeses, such as Saint-Nectaire, tomes from cow or the Pyrenees, or cooked: young Emmental. Young cantal, others like vacherin or raclette cheese, have a marked flavor, as do some tomes of Mountain.
5. Strong flavor: These are cheeses with “character”, such as scabs flowery à raw milk "Well done": Camembert AOC, Brie au raw milk, mature goat cheese, but also refined pressed cheeses: Cantal, steamed Edam, or fruity cooked pasta: Beaufort, Friborg ...
6. Strong flavor: Here are the soft washed rind cheeses (Langres, blue et Fourme d'Ambert or Montbrison whose taste is characteristic.
7. Very strong flavor: Going up to “ spicy ou pheasant ". Informed connoisseurs will group together the blue very ripe, the Roquefort good refined and aged just to the point, as are the goats dry or macerated and seasoned with aromates (pimento, peppers, etc…). But don't forget the Corsican cheeses or the Boulettes d'Avesnes or Cambrai.
« Cheese is a supplement to a good meal and a supplement to a bad »(Eugène Briffault, gastronomic critic)
« Le cheese is milk making a leap to immortalityé ”(Clifton Fadiman, American author)
« You cannot buy happiness. However, you can buy cheese, it's almost the same »(On a sign at a master cheese maker, rue Montorgueil in Paris)
Catalog of French cheeses
- Baby bell
- Kiss of fire
- Well no
- Beaufort - History - Terroir and production of Beaufort cheese
- Feel free to call
- Blue Auvergne
- Corsican blue
- Gex blue
- Septmoncel blue
- Causses blue
- Vercors-Sassenage blue
- Macerated bosson
- Avesnes dumpling
- Bresse Blue
- Brie de meaux
- Brie de Melun
- Rove bush
- Camembert de Normandy
- Camembert de Normandie - History - manufacture and production of Camembert de Normandie
- Farmer Camembert
- Bonneville Square
- Eastern Square
- Casgiu merzu
- Canute brain
- Chevret de Belley
- Heart of Arras
- County - History - generalities and fabrication of the county
- Confit d'Époisses
- Coulommiers - History - Manufacturing and generalities of Coulommiers
- Crottin de Chavignol
- Crottin de Chavignol - Appellation and production area
Cheeses from French regions (*):
(*) Editor's note: For purely gastronomic reasons, we have kept the old administrative division of French territory, i.e. 27 regions and not 18 as after the regional division which came into force on January 1, 2016.